A week from today I’ll be packing my bags, ready to head for the writing weekend where I’m teaching a course from Friday. I can’t wait. Because not only will I get to meet interesting new people - people who want to learn about writing are always intriguing – and catch up with some I already know, but also I get to visit one of my favourite places in the world. That’s because the Writers’ and Artists’ Weekend is held in Fishguard in the beautiful country of Wales which has some special memories - and one particular very special memory for me.
Wales has always held a very special place in my heart – and, really, it doesn’t seem to matter which part of the lovely country I visit. When I was a child, my family and I used to travel to the Isle of Anglesey in summer and stay in a tiny place called Treaddur Bay. Apparently this wasn't the first place I ever stayed in Wales. Before Anglesey, we used to stay in Nefyn, also in North West Wales, but I was only in my pram then so I don't remember too much about it!
But I do remember Treaddur Bay. My aunt used to come over from Ireland - the Irish ferry docked at Holyhead, just down the road, and we would all get together for a family holiday. It was a perfect place for my sort of holiday – a wide, sandy beach, sand dunes to play adventure games in, the sea for swimming – if you were brave and immune to the cold. And there were outings to places like the South Stack Lighthouse where –once you’d got over the terrifying swaying bridge high over the sea – you could see puffins and other birds and occasionally dolphins out in the waves.
When I was choosing a university to study at, some kind man told my mother that if he had a daughter who wanted to be a librarian – which I did at the time – he would make sure she went to University College of Wales Aberystwyth where they had just started to very first Bachelor of Librarianship degree. I went to ‘Aber’ for an interview and fell in love - twice. First with the place. I would work my hardest, I vowed, if only I would get a chance to study there in the wonderful ‘Old College’ building by the sea. There was another wide, curving beach – two of them actually, more dolphins in the sea, (They would occasionally come and swim with you if you were brave enough to venture into the freezing waves) and an old ruined castle looking out over the water.
And that second time I fell in love? Well, I had to wait two and a half years for that but it was in Aberystwyth, one cold and very wet October night that I met my husband. Someone I already knew from the drama group brought a gang of friends round for a cup of coffee and one of them was the man who became my husband and is known worldwide as the Babe Magnet. So our relationship is very much tied up with connections to and memories of Wales.
Connections that were renewed when we started working with Caerleon Writing Holidays based in Newport near Cardiff. The Babe Magnet had written a How To book on Writing and Publishing Poetry and he was asked to run a course on poetry at Caerleon. Could I come along too, we asked. When they discovered that I wrote for Harlequin, they asked me to give a ‘main’ talk on the subject. So back we went to Wales – and I fell in love all over again. With Caerleon village, with Writers’ Holidays as an event - and with Anne and Gerry Hobbs. The warm-hearted, generous, welcoming people who run the event for writers, with writers, with no financial support whatsoever.
Caerleon gets you addicted. Once you’ve been there, you want to go back – again and again. The Magnet and I have given lectures, taught courses, and sometimes we’ve just paid our money and joined in the event because we can’t bear to stay away. This year we’re going back again – can’t wait. I’m teaching a five part course on the 12 Point Guide To Writing Romance and the Babe Magnet is talking about researching his new books on Conan Doyle, Jane Austen and other writers’ criminal relatives. We’ll meet up with old friends, make new ones – you always make friends at Caerleon.
Caerleon itself is lovely with the ancient Roman Fortress and its supposed links with King Arthur. Some even think that it might have been the site of Camelot. But there's another attraction not too far away that always draws us. Hay-on-Wye has become the world's largest second-hand and antiquarian book centre. Every year we visit, I arrive with lists of books to look for from friends and family - and I usually leave with - er - one or two for myself. The Magnet has been known to fill the boot of the car!
And this Writing Weekend I’m heading for next week? Well that follows on from Caerleon really. Anne and Gerry also run Writers’ and Artists’ weekends in Fishguard, a little further up the coast from Caerleon, where the ferries run to Rosslare in Ireland and where Dylan Thomas' famous tale 'Under Milk Wood' was filmed starring Richard Burton, Elizabeth Taylor and Peter O'Toole. Some of years ago Gerry asked me to create and Advanced Writing Romance course there at their at the Writers’ and Artists’ Weekend (from 15th – 17th February) and this course has been sold out for months. From our first visit to Fishguard we fell in love with another part of Wales, its people, the scenery – and of course the sea. It’s a long journey to get there – around 300 miles – but we don’t care. We’re looking forward to being there. And to being in Caerleon in the summer.
After all, we have so many wonderful memories tied up with that country. If we hadn’t both decided to study at in Wales all those years ago we might never have met and our stories would have taken very different paths.
It doesn’t bear thinking of. So we have a lot to thank Wales for – and it’s no wonder we’re both looking forward to going back again – and again . . .
Details of both the Fishguard weekends and Writers’ Holidays – and any other courses/events I’m running can be found on the Events page of my web site.
Kate’s new title –A Throne For The Taking- will be out in Mills & Boon Modern and Harlequin Presents in June. In the meantime, several of her older titles have been reissued in the M&B Vintage or Harlequin Treasury as ebooks and she’s thrilled to find that 14 years after it was first published, The Groom’s Revenge is in the Top 10 Bestsellers of these Vintage ebooks